Mets, Braves swap Church, Francoeur
National League East rivals complete trade for outfielders
NEW YORK -- The Mets traded right fielder Ryan Church to the Braves for Jeff Francoeur prior to Friday's contest with the Reds.
Francoeur hit .250 with five home runs and 35 RBIs in 82 games for the Braves this season. Church, meanwhile, batted .280 with two homers and 22 RBIs in 67 games for the Mets.
"This is a trade that's not only for now, but for next year and beyond, because of the youth of the player and that what he does fits the ballpark," general manager Omar Minaya said.
Francoeur, 25, is known across the league for his defense in right field. He won a Gold Glove Award in 2007 and has more assists than any other big league outfielder since he made his Major League debut in July 2005.
"This ballpark plays better for Francoeur because, even though Ryan Church is a good defensive player, Francoeur covers a lot of ground," Minaya said. "Base hits to right field -- you just don't run [on Francoeur]."
Francoeur looked like a star when he burst onto the scene in 2005, hitting .300 with 14 home runs in 70 games for the Braves. He drove in more than 100 runs in each of his first two full seasons while playing all 162 games.
Francoeur tailed off in 2008, batting just .239 with 11 home runs and 71 RBIs.
"Omar has always talked to me and told me how much he likes my energy and the way that I play," Francoeur said. "I'm looking forward to getting up there and playing in front of a packed house every night."
The biggest concern regarding Francoeur is his plate discipline, or lack thereof. Francoeur has walked a total of 127 times in 2,632 career plate appearances, or roughly once every 20 times up.
"Plate discipline has been an issue with Jeff," Minaya said. "Because he's 25 years old, I think he can improve on that."
Minaya also said the team "needed something different" and is far from done in the trade market.
"We've got to keep on trying to do these kinds of things," Minaya said. "We're not going to say, 'This is it.' As a front office, we're going to do some things to shake it up."
In order to get Francoeur, the Mets dealt one of their few regulars remaining from Opening Day. Church, who had a stint on the disabled list that bridged the end of May and early June, seemed to find a rhythm with everyday playing time. In his 28 games since returning June 7, Church hit .290 with a home run and 14 RBIs while playing both right and center field.
"It was a shocker," Church said of the trade. "I have no hard feelings. I loved it here, got a chance to meet a lot of great people and play for a good team."
Church, whom the Mets acquired after the 2007 season from the Nationals, got off to a sizzling start with the team last season. In the first 43 games of the year, Church hit .315 with nine home runs and 32 RBIs. Church, however, suffered a concussion -- ironically, in Atlanta -- near the end of May 2008, and never was able to regain his form at the plate. He finished the year batting .273 with 12 homers and 49 RBIs.
The Mets were widely criticized for how they handled Church's concussion, which included flying him to Colorado that week and reinserting him in the lineup before he was fully ready.
"It probably could have been handled a little different," Church said. "But it was just one of those things -- we were in uncharted water."
There was also talk earlier this season that manager Jerry Manuel was not Church's biggest fan. Church, for one, looks forward to getting back at his old team when the Braves host the Mets in a four-game series next weekend.
"They're going to have to change up a lot of signs," he joked. "I definitely know how to play a lot of these guys."
Tim Britton is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.